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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Notes from the Special Collections




Book collecting has been around since the development of writing and the first written documents. One of the earliest, and most wickedly witty, commentaries on the subject was written by the second century satirist Lucian of Samosata in an essay entitled, 'The Ignorant Book-Collector.' Lucian wrote:

But if you have made up your mind to cleave to the same

infirmity at all costs, go ahead: buy books, keep them at home

under lock and key, and enjoy the fame of your treasures--that

is enough for you. But never lay hands on them or read them or

sully with your tongue the prose and poetry of the ancients.[1]

Although not as ancient as Lucian, Dartmouth has always been fortunate to have wise and learned collectors and donors. We in the Library take a certain satisfaction in noting that the Library, its collections, and, indeed, its donors, existed even before the founding of the College in 1769. For in 1764, Doctor Andrew Gifford and his colleagues the Reverend John Erskine and William Dickson, all of Edinburgh, donated a number of books to the Reverend Doctor Eleazar Wheelock for the use of the College-to-be. These gifts, along with others from the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, formed the nucleus of Dartmouth's library.[2] I am pleased to report that many of these volumes remain within the Library's collections and are on view in the Bezaleel Woodward Room, named for our first Librarian, in Baker Library.

At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, there were numerous donations of books and funds to purchase books. The Reverend John Murray of Newburyport, for example, presented a great polyglot Bible in 1783; Moses Fiske, sometime tutor in the College, gave a large collection from his personal library in 1799; Noah Webster provided a subscription to the New York Spectator in that same year. Elisha Ticknor and Caleb Brigham gave [[sterling]]100 each for the acquisition of books in 1805 and Joel Barlow presented a copy of his newly published Columbiad in 1807.[3] But these men, generous as they were, were not collectors as we know them.

It was Isaiah Thomas--scholar, printer, collector--who merits our consideration as the first great collector/donor to Dartmouth. And it is Thomas who is rightly considered the re-founder of the Library. In 1814, Thomas was awarded an honorary degree by President John Wheelock, soon to become the leader of the University faction in the disastrous years of the Dartmouth College Case. By this time, Thomas was recognized as the greatest living American printer and he remains in that pantheon of scholar-printers whom we remember and admire. The University faction, attempting to wrest control of Dartmouth from the College trustees, seized the Library in 1817. The damage done to the holdings, small that they were, was incalculable. The College approached Thomas in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1818 for a gift to assist in the struggle and Thomas responded with two small cash gifts, amounting to $30.

Thomas was more than a financial benefactor, however. He was the premier printer and bookseller of the Federal period and was also respected as a collector of books. Apparently, he had planned to bequeath to Dartmouth a collection of books he had printed as well as many he had collected. Hearing of the depredations caused by the seizure of the Library, Thomas decided to act immediately and gave the collection to the College in 1819. Each of the 470 volumes given contained a label printed on his presses bearing the inscription 'Library of Dartmouth College. Presented by Isaiah Thomas Esq. A.D. 1819, in his donation of 470 volumes.'[4] The vast majority of the volumes remain, some on display in the Treasure Room, while others grace the shelves of the office of the Librarian of the College.

The drive to acquire books, the drive to collect, is burned into some of us more deeply than others. One of my favorite comments on the subject is attributed to the Dutch humanist scholar Erasmus who is purported to have said:

When I get a little money,

I buy books.

If there is any left over,

I buy food and clothes.[5]

There is, however, a more important meaning to the collecting of books. The truly great collections in many of our college and university libraries have been lovingly acquired over many years by astute collectors and then generosuly given to institutions. These acts of generosity cannot be overdrawn. Harold Nicolson, the British biographer and essayist--and an author whom I collect--was noted for his outspoken antipathy toward collectors. He was forced to admit, however, at a luncheon of the Antiquarian Bookseller's Association in London in 1947 that 'Book-collectors are preservers of the humanities.'[6]

I would like to turn now to five preservers of the humanities of this century, all of whom enriched the Dartmouth community. Harold Goddard Rugg 1906 was a lifelong employee of the Library, serving from 1906 to his retirement as Associate Librarian in 1953. Mr. Rugg was an inveterate collector--of nearly everything. An early friend of Robert Frost, Rugg collected letters, manuscripts, first printings and first editions. These he generously donated to the Library. It was Mr. Rugg who made certain that there was, indeed, a Treasure Room contained in the plans for Baker Library when it was constructed in 1928.

Perhaps Mr. Rugg's greatest collection, at least in terms of size, was Vermontiana. Marcus McCorison, sometime Rare Book Librarian here at Dartmouth, described in detail the packing and shipping of the collection when it was given to the Vermont Historical Society. It contained over 2,300 books and 3,000 manuscripts and was transferred from Baker Library to the Montpelier offices of the society in 188 transfer cases. Lest we think of Mr. Rugg only in the context of manuscripts and printed materials, we should remember that, along the way, he gathered over 200 pieces of Bennington ware as a part of his Vermontiana collection.[7]

Mr. Rugg was an inveterate collector of materials for the Dartmouth Library. His autograph collection, begun when he was a boy, contains autographs from most of the major British and American authors and artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. And these are not just autographs, but they are carefully chosen letters and documents that are historically important and of research value.

One final group of materials that Mr. Rugg presented to the Library is a large collection of first editions with important associations. A few titles will give the flavor of this gift: Joseph Conrad's own copy of Victory; Thoreau's Walden, owned by W. H. Hudson; Paley's Natural Theology, owned by Thomas Carlyle; a presentation copy of Sinclair Lewis's Dodsworth; Nathaniel Hawthorne's copy of Jared Sparks, Life of Gouvernour Morris; Wordsworth's copy of the Annual Review for 1805. The list continues for two hundred more titles. Harold Rugg was an omnivirous yet careful collector and Dartmouth benefited not only from his stewardship of the Library's collections for nearly fifty years, but also from the generosity of his gifts.

In the summer, 1958, issue of the British bibliographical journal The Book Collector appeared an essay modestly entitled 'A Collection of English Literature of the 16th and 17th Centuries.' Written by Allerton C. Hickmott 1917, the piece begins, 'It all began many years ago--more than forty, perhaps--with a copy of the Oxford Book of English Verse in a gift binding fashioned for the holiday trade.'[8] Mr. Hickmott proceeds to describe his lifelong interest in and devotion to collecting sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English poetry, drama, and fiction. Another quote from this essay will point to the main thrust of the collector's later interest: 'Michael Papantonio, attending the Harlech sale, cabled me: "You now own 1673 Macbeth. Congratulations."'[9] From that point onward, Shakespeare became a consuming passion.

The Hickmott Shakespeare Collection, often acknowledged as the finest in private hands, consisted of all four folios, some thirty-nine quartos, a fragment of the 1594 Venus and Adonis, the major collections of the Poems, six spurious plays, and over 150 early editions that constituted the 'sources' that Shakespeare used. These included Boccaccio's Decameron, Gower's Confessio amantis, the 1611-1613 edition of the King James Bible, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Chaucer, Ovid, Marlowe, Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Kyd, and Webster; and the list goes on. In his splendid essay This Ivory Pale, Mr. Hickmott noted,

I did not start out as a Shakespeare buff. In my desire to explore less academic fields of literature I concentrated on minor Elizabethan poetry and the lesser-known Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedy--preferably the gory ones where everybody screams and curses and dies, and where it often seems more complicated than the author could possibly have devised. More of this later, perhaps, when I can review my whole library and show how fools may be teased easily to the poorhouse.[10]

Mr. Hickmott was an unusual collector in many respects. One of the more important of his attributes was that he acquired books to read. No matter how rare or how important, they were for him reading copies. In 1958, he commented, 'A library is, after all, not made of rarities, or bindings, but of the volumes you love; and if they bring a warm glow to the heart, the collector should be quite content.'[11] Mr. Hickmott was not only a great collector, but a donor of great magnitude. On his death in 1977, he bequeathed a portion of his Shakespeare collection to Dartmouth. A year later, his wife Madelyn, who shared his bibliophilic interests, gave the remaining portion. It is now to be found in the cases on either side of the fireplace in the Treasure Room of Baker Library. Upon Mrs. Hickmott's death in 1988, the remainder of the great collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, described in his Book Collector essay, came to Dartmouth as a bequest. We are most fortunate to have this important collection as a part of our library.

Herbert Faulkner West 1922 was an entirely different kind of collector. He was a member of the Dartmouth faculty, teaching comparative literature and molding generations of students, a book dealer, publisher, founder of the Friends of the Dartmouth Library, and a champion of collecting on a shoestring. In fact, one of his finest books is entitled Modern Book Collecting for the Impecunious Amateur.[12] In one of his many bibliographical essays, Mr. West wrote, 'Two of the many pleasures in collecting and selling first editions, is first, in looking for them, and secondly of meeting old friends, both dealers and collectors, while searching.'[13] His friends and his finds were legion. Mr. West knew and worked with many if not most of the rare book dealers in the United States and the United Kingdom for nearly half a century. In doing so, he gathered a stunning series of small collections. He wrote,

Financially unable to buy many of the famous 'high spots,' I have happily been forced to collect certain authors whose books never reached terrifically high price levels but which nonetheless have proved themselves through the years as literary works of high caliber.[14]

These certain authors are all well-known to us. For example, Mr. West collected Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham and became a good friend after their meeting at Joseph Conrad's funeral in 1924. This led to collecting Wilfred Scawen Blunt. Blunt led to Lady Anne Blunt and a collection of writers on Arabia including Charles Doughty and T. E. Lawrence. The Cunninghame Graham connection led to Edward Garnett, his father, Richard, and son, David. This same connection caused West to collect W. H. Hudson and Joseph Conrad. All of these collections were complete or nearly complete by the time Mr. West decided to dispose of them. He noted that one of his greatest joys was to give the collections to his alma mater where they could serve as a memorial to the authors and as a resource for his beloved students. His final comment bears repeating. 'I hope other collectors will do the same thing in their respective colleges or in colleges they may admire and not disperse their hard won collections by auction for the benefit of other collectors.'[15]

Richard H. Mandel 1926 was a Friend of the Library in ways almost too numerous to chronicle. He was a founding member of the Friends of the Library, first chair of the Class of 1926 Memorial Book Fund that enabled us to develop a remarkable collection of illustrated books, founder of the Richard Mandel Book Fund, and creator of the College History Room, named in memory of Harold Goddard Rugg. Mr. Mandel was also an astute book collector whose depth and breadth of collecting were astounding. Among his collecting interests was Aldous Huxley, and in creating a Huxley collection, Mr. Mandel gathered over a hundred first editions, most of which are signed, and many have long presentation inscriptions. His H. L. Mencken collection, over a thousand items, contains the rarity Ventures into Verse (Baltimore, 1903), Mencken's first book. It was the importance of this collection that led Mencken to deposit, in seven sealed crates, typescripts of his two autobiographical works. These were, you may recall, opened by President Freedman in 1991. Another of Mr. Mandel's collecting interests was James Gibbons Huneker, the New York critic of art, music, and literature. The collection included correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and family papers as well as a complete run of first editions. Other examples of Mr. Mandel's interests include eleven first editions of Sinclair Lewis, forty-seven first editions of Norman Douglas, the typescript draft, heavily annotated, of Joseph Conrad's preface to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, and thirty first editions of G. B. Shaw. All of these books and manuscripts were donated to Dartmouth by this most generous of collectors.

The final collector who I would like to note is rather different from the preceeding four. Doris Louise Benz had no tie to Dartmouth. In fact, her academic ties were to Radcliffe College. Her home was in Lynn, Massachusetts, and her summer home--to which she traveled with her favorite books in one of her two Rolls Royce motorcars--was in New Hampshire. The daughter of a leather manufacturer, Miss Benz was a quiet collector, almost unknown to other collectors and to dealers, except to Col. Marston Drake of the firm of James F. Drake of New York, and to Maggs and Quaritch in London. From these dealers, Miss Benz slowly and carefully collected a wonderful library, primarily of first editions. These ranged from Austen's three-decker Sense and Sensibility of 1811 to Wycherley's Miscellany Poems of 1704. Along the way, Miss Benz also acquired a taste for manuscripts and drawings, as she owned an autograph letter of Shelley, Ruskin's first draft of his essay on Sir Walter Scott, two sketch books of Walter Crane, and a fine series of pencil and watercolor drawings of Kate Greenaway. It was, to say the least, an ecclectic gathering of books, drawings, and manuscripts, but one that clearly was driven by catholic interests rather than an attempt to define a collection narrowly.

When Miss Benz died, she did what Herb West argued against: she ordered that her collection be sold at auction. The Christie's sale catalog is entitled 'Printed Books and Manuscripts from the Library of Doris L. Benz,' but it is the subtitle that is of interest to us: 'The Property of The Doris L. Benz Trust sold for the benefit of Dartmouth College Library.'[16] The sale of this wonderful collection, ten years ago this November, was in over 400 lots and realized in excess of one million dollars. This November we will mount an exhibition recognizing Miss Benz's signal bequest of our largest rare book and manuscript endowment.

We do not know what spurred Miss Benz to act so generously toward the Dartmouth College Library. We have no record of her ever being in the Treasure Room as a reader. We like to think that she came in quietly one day and was well received, as we believe we receive all visitors. In any case, we do understand that Miss Benz felt that her collection should be broken up and sold for two reasons. First, that many of the books she held were already held within this library, and second, that the books should be placed back into the trade so that others could enjoy the pleasures of identifying, locating, and acquiring books for their own collections. Whatever the case, Miss Benz's collecting interests and her generosity have made a tremendous impact on our ability to acquire materials.

It would be very easy to continue this chronicle for some time. Even a simple list of the names of donors of this century would require dozens of pages. Let it be sufficient, then, to state that fully a half of the rare books and manuscripts held by this Library, and we hold some 90,000 volumes and 6.5 million manuscripts, fully half were collected by bibliophiles and then given to Dartmouth. And I would further suggest that some of the finest, some of the rarest, some of the most important of our holdings have been acquired by the generous acts of our donors. Harold Nicolson suggested that collectors are preservers of the humanities. I would modify that to state that, in the case of the Dartmouth College Library, collectors are not simply preservers, but the very foundation of the library's collections, refounding and enriching our holdings on a daily basis.

[*] This paper was read at the Book Collectors' Workshop, sponsored by the Friends of the Dartmouth Library, on 7 May 1994.

[1] Lucianus Samosatensis, 'The Ignorant Book-Collector,' inLucian, with an English translation by A. M. Harmon, Loeb Classical Library , 8 vols. (London: W. Heinemann, 1913-1967), 3:209. I owe this reference to the delightful essay of A. N. L Munby, 'Some Caricatures of Book-collectors: an essay,' in Essays and Papers, edited by Nicholas Barker (London: The Scolar Press, 1978), 1.

[2] Frederick Chase, A History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire, edited by John King Lord, 2 vols. (Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, 1891-1913), 1:27.

[3] See Chase, History of Dartmouth, 2: 509, for a list of early benefactions to the Library.

[4] Dartmouth College. Library, The Isaiah Thomas Dartmouth Donation (Hanover: Dartmouth College Library, 1949). The label is shown as an illustration on the title page.

[5] Unfortunately, I cannot verify this as an Erasmean statement. One of the finest fictional evocations of the book collecting mania is to be found in Louis Auchincloss's short story, 'The Collector,' inSecond Chance, Tales of Two Generations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), 173-193.

[6] Cited in Munby, 'Caricatures,' 17.

[7] Marcus A. McCorison, 'Highly Personal Recollections of Harold Goddard Rugg,' Vermont History News, 41:6 (1990), 110-114. See also John Hurd, 'He Values the Rare in Books and Life,' Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 43:8 (May, 1951), 17-20.

[8] Allerton C. Hickmott, 'Contemporary Collectors XVII. A Collection of English Literature of the 16th and 17th Centuries,' The Book Collector, 7:2 (Summer, 1958), 152.

[9] Hickmott, 'Contemporary Collectors,' 155.

[10] Allerton C. Hickmott, This Ivory Pale: the Shakespearean Collection of Allerton C. Hickmott (West Hartford: Privately printed, 1970), 6-7.

[11] Hickmott, 'Contemporary Collectors,' 164.

[12] Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1936. This volume is highly recommended both as a delightful essay and as a practical handbook. Others that fall into the same category are the works of A. Edward Newton and George Sims. One essay that should be read as a 'how-not-to' is Arnold Bennett, Literary Taste. How to Form it. With detailed instructions for collecting a complete library of English Literature (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1910). This essay, unfortunately, went through many editions as it was a very popular text. For earlier collectors and collections, the set of essays in Robin Myers and Michael Harris, eds., Property of a Gentleman, the Formation, Organisation and Dispersal of the Private Library, 1620-1920 (Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1991), is highly recommended.

[13] Herbert F. West, 'On Seeking First Editions,' The American Book Collector, 14:9 (1964), 6.

[14] Herbert F. West, 'A Few Notes on Collecting,' The Book Collector's Packet, 4:1 (September, 1945), 12.

[15] West, 'Few Notes,' 14.

[16] The sale was held in Christie's sales rooms in New York on 16 November 1984. Much of the information on Miss Benz is contained in the forward to the catalog. Other information is taken from Philip N. Cronenwett, 'The Benz Sale,' Dartmouth College Library Bulletin, 25:2 (April, 1985), 105-107. Some few other lots from Miss Benz's estate were sold at Swann Galleries, New York, and at Christie's in London in the same sale season. One vitally important set, Sir Walter Scott's own interleaved volumes prepared for a reissue of the Waverley novels, was, appropriately, sold by private treaty to the National Library of Scotland.

Last Updated: 5/3/12